Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters

Tra i meccanismi più comuni al periodo di Capodanno c'è di sicuro quello materiale, psicologico o solo metaforico, di liberarsi del vecchio per far spazio e propiziare il nuovo, anche attraverso un progetto come Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters, che punta l'obiettivo su pratiche culturali e sociali millenarie destinate ad una lenta ma inesorabile scomparsa, che sopravvivono in piccoli borghi incastrati tra le Alpi.

Attraverso i ritratti di "Sworn Virgin" (burrneshas in albanese) che, rinunciando a femminilità e maternità considerate proprietà degli uomini, hanno assunto per tutta la vita, l'aspetto, le consuetudini e l'identità sociale di un uomo, per portare pistole e pantaloni, votare, guidare, esercitare attività, guadagnare soldi, bere, fumare, e fare tutto quello che la società arcaica riservava solo agli uomini.

Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters
Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters
Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters
Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters
Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters
Sworn Virgins of Albania di Jill Peters

Ritratti di una femminilità soffocata da spoglie maschili, che sopravvive ancora oggi nel Nord dell'Albania, dove una donna può diventare presidente e Jill Peters ha scovato e fotografato quelle che continuano a vivere seguendo questo codice arcaico.

"Sworn Virgin" is the term given to a biological female in the Balkans who is chosen, usually at an early age, to take on the social identity of a man for life. As a tradition dating back hundreds of years, this was necessary in societies that lived within tribal clans, followed the Kanun, an archaic code of law, and maintained an oppressive rule over the female gender.The Kanun states that women are considered to be the property of their husbands. The freedom to vote, drive, conduct business, earn money, drink, smoke, swear, own a gun or wear pants was traditionally the exclusive province of men. Young girls were commonly forced into arranged marriages, often with much older men in distant villages.

As an alternative, becoming a Sworn Virgin, or 'burnesha" elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population. In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name. Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature. Most importantly of all, she took a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life. She became a "he". This practice continues today but as modernization inches toward the small villages nestled in the Alps , this archaic tradition is increasingly seen as obsolete. Only a few aging Sworn Virgins remain. The number of new cases are scant and tend to be considered less authentic by younger generations.

As a photographer with an interest in subjects that innately speak to the diversity of the human experience I was fascinated with this story. I wanted to capture their portraits before they were gone forever. I travelled to the mountain villages of northern Albania and what I found was a small collection of extraordinary people. I learned that the Burnesha are well respected within their communities. They possess an indescribable amount of strength and pride, and value their family honor above all else. Their absolute transition is wholly accepted, posited and taken without question by the people among whom they live.

Via | Slate

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